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Blackhawks looking to add picks, Bryan Bickell contract negotiations “looking good”
Blackhawks director of scouting Mark Kelley has been lobbying general manager Stan Bowman for more picks in today’s NHL Draft. And Bowman’s trying to get them for him.
“He’s lobbying for lots of picks,” Bowman said a few hours before the draft began in Newark, N.J. “We’ll see. The next couple hours will dictate what happens. I’d like to try to pick up a pick or two if we can. And if not, then we’ll just use where we are. We’ve got confidence. Our guys have done a good job finding players later in the draft, and they’ve worked hard.”
The Hawks have just five picks in the draft after dealing away their second- and third-round picks for Johnny Oduya last season, and one of their two fourth-round picks for Michal Handzus at the April trade deadline. As it stands now, the Hawks pick 30th, and then 121st.
With most of his roster coming back next season, Bowman said he isn’t worrying about shedding salary at this point.
“No, we’re looking to get picks, that’s my goal,” he said. “If we can get a couple more picks today, that would be my goal. I’m not really worried about salary. We used our buyouts [on Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz] and we’re in a good spot financially. We have five picks, we’d like to try to get to six or seven if we could.”
Bowman took an afternoon break from contract negotiations with unrestricted free agent Bryan Bickell to focus on the NHL Draft.
“We’re talking,” Bowman said. “It’s looking good for Bick, but we’re not there yet. It certainly hasn’t broken down at all. I think we understand where they’re at, and they know where we’re at, and we’re trying to find a common ground.”
Bickell’s agent, Todd Diamond, said he concurred with Bowman’s assessment, saying, “we have made daily progress.”
Bickell said on Thursday that he’d be willing to take a hometown discount to stay with the team that drafted him in 2004.
“We want him and he wants to be here, so that’s why I’ve always said I feel good that we’re going to get it done,” Bowman said.
On other topics:
— Bowman said the Hawks would not be trading into the top five, but could move up or down if the right deal is there. He said trade talk around the league was largely stalled at the moment, because nobody’s budging from their high asking prices.
— Bowman said the Hawks have an idea of who might be available at No. 30, but that they’ll pick the best player available, not by position.
“We have a pretty good distribution of our young players,” he said. “A few years back we were a little weak at center and we sort of built that up. We had targeted centermen and now we have a little mixture of everything. We have some defensemen and we got a couple of goalies last year. We’ve got some forwards. I’m open to any position at that pick.”
— Bowman said talks with restricted free agents Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger haven’t started yet, but that they will soon.
“Kruger and Leddy both are RFAs, so we’re going to get to them shortly and then address our other UFAs,” he said. “Sort of do that concurrently. There’s plenty of work to be done, but we’ll try not to get ahead of ourselves.”
— The Hawks will not be going after any of the big-name free agents out there this summer.
“We’re not going to be in that free-agent market,” Bowman said. “I don’t want to say we’re immune to that, but that’s really not a focus of mine. For us, we’re not trying to shed money or go into the free-agent market. We have a lot of young players we have to sort of find spots for. We’ve sort of kept some of these guys in the minors for a while and they’ve earned their chance to play. It’s not going to hurt them to play another year in the American League, but when they’re ready, they’re ready. [Brandon] Pirri won the scoring title last year in Rockford. We haven’t really given him a chance to play yet. Jimmy Hayes and [Jeremy] Morin, they’ve been up here and there, but they’re really ready to play, but we have to find places for them to play.”